Paul Gunther, an impassioned and trenchant champion of the humanities and structure in New York’s nonprofit preservation organizations, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 65.
His demise, in a hospital, was confirmed by his longtime associate, Joel Sanders, an architect and a professor on the Yale Faculty of Structure. The trigger was accidents sustained six days earlier from what the authorities stated was an tried suicide.
Mr. Gunther held influential however comparatively low-profile and unheralded positions within the rarefied arts world, however his impression on New York Metropolis’s quotidian tradition was profound.
He helped protect New York’s neglected public monuments and its ignored heritage at two museums, and labored to ensure that the redeveloped Occasions Sq. would retain its incandescent show promoting, sparing the realm from devolving into simply one other cheerless complicated of workplace towers.
Till earlier this yr, Mr. Gunther was the chief director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, a nonprofit company created to protect and vitalize the 18th-century former nation retreat on Manhattan’s Higher East Aspect that doubles because the official residence of New York Metropolis’s mayors and a public museum and gallery.
“Paul had this unbelievable sense of historical past,” stated Chirlane McCray, the spouse of former Mayor Invoice de Blasio, underneath whose administration Mr. Gunther served.
“He was humble, he spoke his thoughts,” stated Ms. McCray, who enlisted Mr. Gunther to meet her dedication to broadening the mansion’s programming. She added, “Each exhibit in Gracie Mansion was about all of New York, not simply concerning the people who had lived there.”
Earlier than operating the conservancy starting in 2015, Mr. Gunther was president of the New York-based Institute of Classical Architecture and Art from 2003 to 2015; director of improvement after which vice chairman of institutional development for the New-York Historical Society from 2001 to 2003; director of improvement and American liaison of the American Heart in Paris from 1991 to 1994; and director of improvement and public affairs of the New York Metropolis Municipal Artwork Society from 1986 to 1991.
“As improvement director of these nonprofits he was transformative in the best way he not solely introduced them fiscal energy and safety however helped them outline and refine their mission and their work,” stated Randall Bourscheidt, a pal and former colleague who was deputy commissioner of cultural affairs underneath Mayor Edward I. Koch and later the president of the nonprofit Alliance for the Arts.
Paul William Gunther was born on Oct. 24, 1956, in Rochester, N.Y. His father, Kenneth W. Gunther, was a physicist and an inventor at what grew to become Xerox Corp. His mom, Nancy (Burrows) Gunther, was the city clerk of Penfield, N.Y., outdoors Rochester.
Along with Professor Sanders, the principal of JSA/MIXdesign, an structure and design studio in New York, Mr. Gunther is survived by his mom and a sister, Laurie Gunther Fellows.
He graduated from Yale College with a bachelor’s diploma in artwork historical past in 1978 and attended Jesus Faculty at Oxford College for a semester underneath the auspices of the English Talking Union.
He went on to work for New York Metropolis’s cultural affairs commissioner, Henry Geldzahler, as his particular assistant in the course of the Koch administration, from 1978 to 1981. From 1982 to 1986 he was vice chairman of George Trescher Associates, the fund-raising agency for a few of New York’s prime charities and corporations.
“He grew to become immediately a New Yorker,” stated Kent L Barwick, the previous president of the Municipal Artwork Society. “He was contemptuous about individuals who didn’t deal with the town with the respect it deserved.”
Starting in 1987, Mr. Gunther — together with the town’s Parks and Recreation Division, the Artwork Fee and one other organizer, Phyllis Samitz Cohen — was instrumental in establishing a Municipal Artwork Society effort to hunt non-public funders to help public monuments and murals that the town might not afford to take care of. Amongst different tasks, the group raised $275,000 to revive the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle in Manhattan and $40,250 to restore Lincoln’s statue in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
“He was on the coronary heart of all the pieces the Municipal Artwork Society did in these days,” Mr. Barwick stated.
One factor it did was ensure that the town’s much-ballyhooed upgrading of Times Square required builders to proceed to festoon even new buildings with the type of spectacular signage that had distinguished the Nice White Manner for a century.
When the New-York Historic Society might barely pay its utility payments and its museum and library have been in a moribund state, stated Betsy Gotbaum, who was recruited to rescue the establishment as its president, Mr. Gunther “was one of many causes we have been in a position to reserve it.”
“He had good concepts, issues that you’d by no means consider,” she stated.
Mr. Gunther was the creator, with Homosexual Giordano, of two books: “New York Dwelling: Reinventing House” (2018) and “Phantasm in Design: New Developments in Structure and Interiors” (2022).
In April, he was named government director of the Oysterponds Historical Society in Orient, N.Y, on Lengthy Island’s North Fork.
Mr. Gunther was difficult, “conscious of his personal shortcomings and everybody else’s, and self-deprecating,” Mr. Barwick stated. “Apparently,” he added, “the self-deprecation obtained the most effective of him.”
David W. Dunlap, a pal and a former reporter for The New York Occasions, as soon as stated of Mr. Gunther that “having a dialog with Paul might be as exhilarating as navigating hairpin turns by way of a mountain go in a finely tuned roadster.”
He added, “Erudition is just one method wherein Paul — whose personal lifetime suits into the final half of the 20th century — appears to embody among the greatest qualities of the 19th.”